Santiago’s growing Chinese, Japanese, and Korean communities have ensured a healthy number of East Asian restaurants and markets exist in the city. One block in particular provides Asian food, ingredients, and wares in abundance.
Four East Asian markets lie in close proximity on the street Antonia López de Bello between Patronato and Loreto, and after stocking up on groceries the afternoon can be capped off perfectly by a delicious meal at Korean restaurant Sukine.
On the north side of the street, China House Market has a dozen aisles selling foodstuffs from all over the far east, as well as kitchenware from miso bowels to sushi boats. This market is also the place to buy fresh tofu, coconut milk, frozen gyoza and spring rolls, and imitation meats for vegetarians.
Directly across the street, K-Market sells speciality goods from Korea, with the added quirk of a small video section dedicated to Korean films and TV shows complete with Spanish subtitles.
Shopkeeper Mi Suk-Jang has been in Santiago for 17 years, and explains that more and more of her countrymen are beginning to look to Chile as a place to work and travel.
“There are a lot of opportunities in this country,” Suk-Jang told This is Chile. “And people from Korea are travelling to Chile more often now because there is already a community of a few thousand Koreans in Santiago alone. My kids are really excited now the Korean pop singers have started to come to play shows in Chile.”
Along with an assortment of sweets and cookies, Suk-Jang’s shop is the place to buy classic Korean ingredients such as kimchi (fermented vegetables) and shrimp jut (salted shrimp). Conveniently, almost all the goods in these stores are labeled in English as well as the language of origin.
China House Market has a second store to the west of K-Market, selling more specialised goods such as tapioca pearls, palm sugar, edamame, and yellow, green, and red curry paste.
Next-door to China House is the highly eclectic Assimarket. A number of trinkets are up for sale, among them maneki-neko welcoming cats and geisha dolls, as well as traditional Chinese clothing and fabrics.
Assimarket is also the place to go for rice; over a dozen varieties of rice are on offer, from sushi rice to mixed wild rice. The frozen food section boasts salted mackerel and several types of dumpling. You can buy woks here as well to try your hand at home cooked Chinese food.
After an afternoon’s shopping, head to Sukine, next door to the K-Market, for a traditional Korean meal. The starter course (kimchi, deep fried pumpkin, and seaweed) is a meal in itself, so pace yourself for the main course to come.
A server brings an individual stove to your table, and raw meat cooks in thick sauces in front of you. There is plenty to choose from on the menu, though the osam bok um (pork, calamari, and kimchi in a hoisin sauce) will not disappoint on a first visit.
Table cooked dishes (around US$ 28 or CLP 14,000) easily feed three or four.